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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Should kids still be taught to write in cursive? (Hint: No.)

My son, who's about to enter a Ph.D. program in mathematics (i.e., he's not an idiot), has atrocious handwriting. It's not that his writing is hard to read, although it is - the problem is that it looks like a 5-year-old's scrawl. Not dignified.

I've told him he should make it look more like the product of an adult, but this child of the digital keyboard age just rolls his eyes at out-of-date dad.

Which leads to today's issue: What about cursive writing? (My son has basically given up on cursive; he writes in a sort of modified block print, like many people.)

Teaching cursive is no longer required under recommended national education standards, and The Washington Post has a debate today about whether that's a good idea. Read it here. I suspect most geeky folks would say it's a waste of time teaching penmanship to kids.

Despite my old-fashioned thinking about handwriting, I believe that, too. Cursive can die. It was developed to make handwriting fast, and there are far too many options around for fast "writing" via devices. Kids should be taught how to *read* cursive, but they don't need to practice penmanship any more, just like they don't need to memorize how many pecks are in a bushel or learn how to use a slide rule. Use that classroom time for something more valuable.

Besides, it's way past time for the cursive upper-case Q (the one that looks like an Art Deco "2") to shuffle off this mortal coil.